As far as the experience was concerned it was terrific.
The Santa Monica High football team went to the San Luis Obispo area in the first round of the CIF Division 4 playoffs, earned the respect of a quality opponent and took a step in the continuing development of coach Mike Burnett’s program.
However, there was the matter of the scoreboard which showed a 27-10 loss to Arroyo Grande.
“It was what high school football should be,” said Burnett. “Good competition, no fighting, and a lot of respect shown all around when the game ended.”
However, two unfortunate turnovers helped end Samohi’s season in the matchup of second place teams from their respective leagues.
One came on a punt when the ball bounced off the leg of a Samohi blocker. The other, was an interception on a tipped pass.
Samohi matched up pretty well against a bigger team with a reputation of being extremely physical. The Vikings used a 60-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz to Jason Thompson to take a 7-0 lead before falling behind at halftime, 17-7.
A 65-yard run by junior E.J. Woods led to a field goal which reduced the deficit to 17-10 in the third quarter. But Samohi couldn’t score again despite driving deep into Arroyo Grande territory one more time.
“They took advantage of their opportunities better than we did,” said Burnett.
Three highlights for Samohi were Woods running for 110 yards, Katz throwing for 170 and junior Cameron Collins making 20 tackles.
When the playoff pairings were announced the theme was that the more athletic, faster Ocean League teams were being matched against teams from the north with more size and power.
Arroyo Grande lived up to its reputation by staying on the ground with its wing-T offense, throwing only five passes and completing just one.
However, Samohi was much stronger in the trenches than a year ago when it was quicky eliminated from the playoffs by Ventura.
“Some of the Arroyo Grande players told our kids afterward that’s the hardest they’ve been hit all season,” said Burnett. “We were outclassed a year ago but that wasn’t the case in this game. I’m really proud of our team.”
Most of Samohi’s key players will return next season – 9 of the 11 starters on offense and seven on defense – from an 8-3 team.
Samohi lost to the three best teams it played – a non-league loss to Venice, a league game to Beverly Hills and to Arroyo Grande.
The two other Ocean League representatives split in the first playoff round. Culver City lost at Ventura, 28-27 and Beverly Hills won a home game from Atascadero, 35-33.
Beverly Hills is 9-0-2 overall. It was tied by Diamond Bar and Culver City but hasn’t lost since finishing in the second division of the league last year.
Burnett’s first Samohi team went 0-9-1. Last season the Vikings improved to 6-5 and qualified for the playoffs. The eight wins this season represented further improvement.After a week of rest, Samohi’s players will begin an off-season strength and conditioning program. With the sport becoming nearly a year-round venture on the high school level, summer passing leagues will also prepare players for the 2006 season.